Facebook Inc. FB 1.27% has fired an employee who bragged about his access to private user information, according to a person familiar with the situation.
The employee’s alleged remarks highlight the potential for certain Facebook employees to abuse their access to the private information of the social network’s users. The company has said that some employees have access to such data but that it is tightly controlled.
“We are investigating this as a matter of urgency,” Facebook’s Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos said in a statement. “It’s important that people’s information is kept secure and private when they use Facebook.”
The employee allegedly sent a message to a woman he met on the dating site Tinder, telling her his job involves tracking hackers and finding their identities, according to a person familiar with the matter. “So professional stalker,” the employee said in a screenshot of what appeared to be an exchange with the woman he met on Tinder. The screenshot was tweeted by Jackie Stokes, a security consultant who first made public the alleged incident.
On April 20, the woman approached a friend who worked for Ms. Stokes’ company, Spyglass Security Consulting LLC, saying she was “terrified” following an interaction with someone she had been messaging with on Tinder, Ms. Stokes said.
The concerned woman, a software engineer, was unnerved by the “professional stalker” comment and by the fact that he had uncovered details about her online, including the name of a coding project she’d stored on the GitHub software-sharing website.
Ms. Stokes doesn’t know whether the Facebook employee accessed the victim’s Facebook account. “I do not believe that Facebook would have had a knee-jerk reaction and fired an employee without cause,” Ms. Stokes said.
Even before this incident, lawmakers and users of Facebook have been voicing increasing concern and frustration about the company’s sometimes lax policies for controlling the vast stores of information it collects on people. Facebook in 2016 allowed a data analytics firm with ties to the Trump campaign to view information on millions of Americans that they hadn’t chosen to share.
Allegations that Facebook’s employees are cavalier with Facebook’s data could increase pressure on the social network to put in place more safeguards that prevent employees from accessing users’ information in the future.
Mr. Stamos said that Facebook has strict policy controls and technical restrictions so that employees can only access the data they need to do their jobs—for example to fix bugs, manage customer support issues or respond to legal requests. “Employees who abuse these controls will be fired,” Mr. Stamos said.
Facebook’s Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said in early April that he made a “huge mistake” in not focusing more on potential abuse of user information.
Write to Georgia Wells at Georgia.Wells@wsj.com and Robert McMillan at Robert.Mcmillan@wsj.com